GUY THING - DVD review

...wasn't as bad as suffering through "Just Married," but that's a little like saying you'd rather cross the Atlantic in the Hindenburg than the Titanic.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

Oh, no, another romantic comedy. Sort of. Trouble is, "A Guy Thing" can't make up its mind what it wants to be: a romantic comedy, a straight-up comedy, or a gross-out comedy. In any case, given the sparse number of laughs it supplies, maybe the term "comedy" is too generous no matter what we call it.

The cast boasts three shining young stars: Jason Lee ("Chasing Amy," "Dogma," "Almost Famous," "Heartbreakers"), Julia Stiles ("O," "Save the Last Dance," "10 Things I Hate About You"), and Selma Blair ("The Sweetest Thing," "Cruel Intentions"). Yet in this outing they're given nothing to deal with but a tired script straight out of the book of old TV and movie clichés. How clichéd? How about a guy almost ready for his wedding day who decides maybe he likes somebody else instead.

The story opens at Paul's (Lee) bachelor party, where a first-time hula dancer, Becky (Stiles), is part of the entertainment. She's terrible at it, but she's cute and Paul, after a few drinks too many, invites her home. How faithful is Paul to his intended? He sleeps with Becky this first time he meets her. Then, true to comedy cliché, Becky turns out to be, unbeknownst to either of them, Paul's fiancee's cousin! What are the odds? And how smart is Becky? She goes home and sleeps with total, drunk strangers?

If this is what the filmmakers call romance or comedy, I assure you it's neither. But the opening gambit does set the tone for the rest of the movie, a wholly dispiriting affair. The remainder of the story involves Paul, Becky, and the fiancée, Karen (Blair), in a triangle the week before the funeral, er, wedding.

How good are the gags? Well, the film is rated PG-13, so they don't get too crude, but they're often pretty coarse, nonetheless. There's the business of the dirty underwear, for instance, a highlight of the film. Or Paul's crabs; that's always good for a chuckle. Or the old saw of yelling out in a crowded drugstore that Paul needs medication for his crabs. Isn't that, like, about thirty or more years old and usually found in adolescent comedies involving condoms? A feigned case of diarrhea is gross, too, but at least it elicits a smile.

The goofy, stereotyped supporting characters are no more appealing: the rich, ex-surfer father-in-law and the uptight mother-in-law; the crass, vulgar father and the sweet, naive mother; the happy, dippy friend with the bizarre ideas; and the well-meaning brother with a secret love for the bride-to-be. Whew! And, of course, you can add in Karen's uninhibited old aunt and Becky's psycho-cop ex-boyfriend (Lochlyn Munro) to get a bundle of nut cases too boorish and obnoxious to care about.

Naturally, Paul falls for Becky, which is understandable considering she's lively and vivacious while the fiancée is straightlaced and dour. More than anything Paul appears to need a little fun in his life. Too bad the movie doesn't provide it. He could have watched the movie, married Becky, and spared us 101 minutes of tedium.

To be fair, I did laugh three times in the film. One came at about fifty minutes in and involved indirectly, I blush to say, the soiled panties Karen finds in Paul's apartment. But it's not the under garment that made me laugh but a subsequent call to a department store. It's a guy thing. A second laugh came about five minutes later during a police lineup. And a final laugh arrived during the climactic wedding scene.

Anyway, there's not enough humor in the film to warrant my going much further on with it. Almost every action can be forecast well in advance, coincidences abound to such an extent they spoil the fun, the characters are exaggerated beyond belief, the conflicts are far-fetched, and, incredibly, the plot turns into a police caper by the end. Some of Paul's daydreams are amusing, and the conclusion plays out in true romantic-comedy tradition, but, mostly, the film is a tiresome bore.

MGM present this film in both a widescreen and a standard-screen format. The anamorphic widescreen, measuring a 1.77:1 ratio, is actually a little less wide than its theatrical exhibition ratio, but it fits nicely into the dimensions of a 16x9 widescreen TV. The standard screen is a genuine pan-and-scan affair, reducing the information at the sides of the screen by about twenty-five per cent.

The image in widescreen is ordinary, if a bit soft and fuzzy. Colors are somewhat subdued and slightly smeared and glossy. Dark areas are pretty obscure, and jittery lines show up in things like Venetian blinds. The picture is quite clean, however, grain free, so it's not a total loss.

The sound is engineered in Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, although you might not know it much of the time. There is a good, strong bass response, and the sonics are for the most part velvety smooth. The front sound stage is acceptably wide, but there's not a lot of need for the rear speakers. The surrounds are not even in much evidence during musical background passages. Although a few noises like the closing of doors, the falling of light rain, and the crunch of tires on a gravel driveway do occasionally percolate through to the sides or back of the listening area, these are rare instances.

The DVD is labeled a "Special Edition" so you would expect a host of extras, and there are. However, it would be unfair to expect the extras to be any better than the movie itself, and they aren't. For dedicated fans of the movie, I suppose the bonus items could be a delight. For me, they were a chore.

There is, of course, the obligatory audio commentary with the director and stars. Then, there are three featurettes: "Inside a Guy Thing," eighteen minutes of behind-the-scenes promotional talk; "Bachelor Party Confidential," nine minutes about the opening scene and more talk; and "Groovy Gravy," five minutes of creating the party scene. Of greater interest may be seven deleted scenes and three alternate endings, with introductions by the director. After that are some bloopers strung together in a gag reel; an on-screen trivia track, called a "Fun Fact" track in the menu; an interactive trivia quiz, "Are We Made for Each Other"; and a photo gallery. Finally, there are thirty-two scene selections and a widescreen theatrical trailer. English, French, and Spanish are offered for spoken languages and subtitles.

Parting Shots:
At least watching "A Guy Thing" wasn't as bad as suffering through "Just Married," but that's a little like saying you'd rather cross the Atlantic in the Hindenburg than the Titanic.

"A Guy Thing" is not particularly offensive despite its overreliance on cheap jokes and crude gags; it's just dreary. In terms of its writing, plotting, and characterizations, it barely rises above the level of an average television sitcom, which is understandable since director Chris Koch did most of his work for television, his only previous feature film being "Snow Day." That's all right; everybody starts somewhere. But given the star power and proven abilities of its leads, especially Lee and Stiles, the whole thing should have been better worth one's time and trouble.


Film Value